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‘Really exciting’ new school is on its way

High profile endorsements from leading figures in the arts have been announced by the Creative Arts Academy, the new specialist primary school for York.

To be run by Ebor Academy Trust, the new school won central government backing and funding last summer. It will be among the few specialist creative arts primary schools in the country and will have a city-wide admissions policy.

Ebor chief executive Richard Ludlow said: “There has been a very positive reaction to the news of our Creative Arts Academy, which the Department for Education awarded us on the grounds of innovation and diversity.

“We have a real opportunity here to create a centre of excellence which will benefit the entire city, not just those children who attend the school. We are proud that York has been designated a UNESCO City of Media Arts and will work alongside the York Guild of Media Arts and creative industries locally. This will mean alliances with artists, musicians and other creative people who can help enhance our children’s learning.”

With York being densely populated and having both high property prices and high land values, there have been difficulties in finding a suitable site to accommodate a primary school which will have 420 pupils when full. Over 30 sites were identified and rejected in the last 12 months. Although a site has now been found, its exact location and opening date is still under wraps until legal paperwork is completed.

“Study after study has shown that the creative arts not just provides confidence and self expression, but can provide a different way to significantly boosting literacy and numeracy in some children,” said Mr Ludlow.

The idea for the school caught parents’ imagination in York when proposals were announced in The Press at the beginning of 2016. In the seven weeks before the deadline for the submission of the application, 176 parents registered an interest in sending their child there, with 88 parents who wanted their children to be in the first cohort.

The bid was won after the Ebor team impressed the Department for Education with a robust education plan that tapped into the city’s creative industries aspirations while making sure children would achieve good or better levels of reading, writing and numeracy.

The new school will also provide support for children with special educational needs and a minibus will assist children from disadvantaged backgrounds get to the school.

Six teachers from schools within Ebor Academy Trust have been appointed to a curriculum development team. Over the next year or so they will be studying best practice at other creative arts schools in England and overseas.

Jo Sawyer, headteacher at Park Grove Primary Academy, which won the Excellence in Cultural Education award at the York Culture Awards organised by Make It York last month, is a member of the new team. She said: “With a creative curriculum it doesn’t mean you’re taking away from the core subjects. Instead of teaching them discretely you’re teaching everything in a creative way so children can actually enjoy subjects such as maths and English. There are so many teachers out there who are passionate about the arts, passionate about music and drama and they will be bringing that drive into normal, everyday subjects.

“The Creative Arts Academy will be really new, really different and really exciting.”

Colin Jackson, who runs York-based Creative Learning Partnerships, will work with the Ebor team. He said: “All too often the current national curriculum tries to drive down young people’s thoughts into something that is either right or wrong rather than nurturing powers of interpretation and personal expression. A learning environment that focuses on culture and creativity will do much to drive the ambition of developing confident and resilient citizens of the future.”

Jane Lady Gibson, chair of Make It York and one of the founding members of the Guild of Media Arts said: “York has a reputation, rightly deserved, of being an incredibly creative and cultural city but the Creative Arts Academy will give people extra reason to see York as special in that sector. The cultural and creative industries are such important economic drivers for this city.”

Former York schoolgirl and Academy Award winner Dame Judi Dench said: “Anything that will encourage young people from a very early age to appreciate the arts and to enjoy them is to be applauded.”

Kay Mellor, the Leeds based drama screenwriter, said: “I hope that the school will inspire the next generations of individuals who can excel in the creative industries.”

Sir Nicholas Serota, chair of Arts Council England, said: “I strongly support the creation of the Creative Arts Academy in York and wish you every success.”

Rick Haythornwaite, chair of the Creative Industries Federation, said: “The academy will offer not only an extraordinary start for the students but also irrefutable evidence of the importance of imaginative expression and creative power as part of the academic mix.”

Based in Strensall, Ebor currently comprises 15 schools, including Robert Wilkinson, Haxby Road, and Park Grove in York. The two schools at Hob Moor are expected to join in the new year, with Lakeside and Osbaldwick scheduled to follow. Ebor also runs schools in Selby, the Yorkshire Coast and in the East Riding and the Humber.

The Creative Arts Academy website is www.creativearts.ebor.academy